Accountability is the lowest cost, most practical, and most productive form of risk management and quality assurance that can be implemented across an enterprise.

Put simply, accountability is really nothing more than a common-sense understanding that decisions made within a framework are going to have a greater chance of success than those made in a vacuum. What type of checks and balances exists within your business environment? Who are you accountable to, and who is accountable to you? In today’s post, we’ll examine not only the benefits of accountability but also how to implement a framework for accountability within your business…

Regardless of where you are in the corporate hierarchy, accountability is a fundamental principle associated with success. Administrative and support staff need to be accountable for the quality and timeliness of their work. Salespeople need to be accountable for not only production volume, but the manner in which they represent the company brand while attaining said volume. Management needs to be accountable to their subordinates as well as to executive leadership. Executives need to be accountable for their quality of leadership and decision making. Have you ever sat in a meeting when an obviously flawed decision was uncovered, only to have everyone around the table adopt the deer in the headlights stare of total confusion? Wouldn’t it be nice not to find yourself in that position ever again? The bottom line is that individuals, teams, business units, divisions, and corporations will be better off when a culture of accountability is adopted.

It is those individuals or organizations who don’t believe they are accountable to anyone, for anything, or at any time that is nothing more than a disaster waiting to happen. All human beings, regardless of who they are, can be capable of making huge mistakes when operating in a vacuum or under a veil of secrecy. While there are certainly those individuals who are just predatory, bad to the bone people, clearly not everyone who makes a mistake is evil with the intent to do harm to others. Rather many people when faced with a tough situation simply was not operating in an accountable manner, and thus made a decision that they would not have otherwise likely made if they were openly operating under the scrutiny and review of others. If you think back to any of the bad and/or regrettable decisions you’ve made in your life, it is highly probable that you didn’t seek the counsel of others (or ignored said counsel) prior to making the wrong decision. Setting up an enterprise-wide framework for accountability is as simple as implementing the following three items:

1. Have a clearly articulated statement of corporate values: Accountability is a principle that operates best in a top-down context. If the leadership team does not hold themselves to high standards of accountability, then it will be difficult to convince subordinates that they should do otherwise. It is important to not only state the values you want the entity to use as a foundation for operation, but also to use the values to frame your vision, mission, strategy, tactics, and processes. Hire and manage based upon the corporate values. If you hire someone who doesn’t share the corporate values or don’t hold existing employees accountable for maintaining the corporate values, then you will get what you deserve

2. Have a written delegation of authority: A written guideline for corporate decisioning will help individuals make good decisions. Define the difference between major and minor decisions, and describe in great detail which employees are authorized to make what decisions. Establish budgetary and approval guidelines for all decisions, and create a process to ensure that no major decisions are made in a vacuum. Making sure that good checks and balances are in place will help keep employees accountable.

3. Implement a good leadership development program: Utilizing training, coaching, mentoring, peer review, talent management, and other sound development practices will help ensure that your leaders will continue to grow and that corporate accountability guidelines are being consistently reinforced. If your executive and management teams lead by example, subjecting themselves to accountability, then staff-level employees will follow suit. When good decisions are made on a consistent basis, trust is established and credibility is enhanced both internally and externally.